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TV Networks Roll Out Spring Replacement Shows


A new ABC series, called "Missing," debuts tonight. It features Ashley Judd as a woman tracking her teen son in Europe who's mysteriously disappeared. TV critic Eric Deggans says the series is part of a new TV trend this spring: shows that are more experimental and edgy.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Would you believe Ashley Judd as a mom who works as a florist, but also used to be a deadly CIA operative?


DEGGANS: Well, apparently, den mothers do - at least on network television. Judd plays a soccer mom breaking arms and strangling thugs across Europe, like an odd mix of "The "Bourne Identity" and Liam Neeson's "Taken."


DEGGANS: No decent scriptwriters, either. "Missing" is a great gamble of a show: big star, huge concept, sprawling locations. But the pilot feels derivative, and even a little silly. Picture a 100-pound actress tossing around grown men in a fight, and you see what I mean.

It's also evidence of a new trend. Years ago, networks would debut their cheesiest programs now, throwing on seriously flawed shows to fill time between important ratings periods in February and May. But now, towards the end of the TV season, networks are rolling out their riskiest and most distinctive series ideas - outside the stampede of new shows that typically start in the fall.

Consider NBC's "Awake," which takes a risk by being complex. "Harry Potter" alum Jason Isaacs plays a police detective who wakes after a car crash to find he's moving between two different realities. Here, a therapist in one reality tries convincing him it's all a dream. But he - and we viewers - know better.


DEGGANS: This might be the most ambitious attempt to reinvent the cop drama yet. It keeps viewers guessing by sprinkling clues across two different worlds.

But ABC is taking a different risk with two other shows. They use the letter B in their title, instead of profanity referring to women. In "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23," that word describes the worst roommate in the world.


DEGGANS: In "GCB," B is a shorthand for wealthy, Christian ladies capable of some serious backstabbing.


DEGGANS: In both cases, it feels a little like fake risk. It seems cutting edge, but comes off as kind of cheap. As controversy builds over how Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher talk about women, it only makes these shows look worse. Maybe when it comes to an idea dopey as putting the B-word in a TV series title, you're better off hiding in a crowd.

MONTAGNE: Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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